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Should I make a Spanish will?

It’s a question that we’re often asked by both residents and non-residents.

Should I make a Spanish will?

Now, we interview our expert, María Wiedemann, from our Legal Department to find out just what the advantages are of making a will in Spain and what the disadvantages can be, if you don't.

Maria Wiedemann has been helping foreigners in Spain protect their assets for 16 years. As a qualified lawyer, she understands exactly how the law in Spain works and what you should do to ensure that the people you love benefit from your inheritance when you die.

Question: Maria, we know that people find it difficult to discuss wills and inheritance, particularly with their children. Why is it important that they do?

María: It is a difficult subject. However, I've seen so many times what can happen if there isn't clarity when it comes to inheritance. It's difficult enough for families who perhaps have had to fly to Spain at short notice and who don't know how it works here. If there are many additional arrangements to make this all adds to the pressure.

Questions: How does a Spanish will help with this?

María: If you haven't made a Spanish will then it means there is more for your inheritors to organise. For example, if there is a will in another country they will need to arrange for an official translator to translate it before it can be accepted in Spain. There are also additional arrangements that will need to be made, such as legalisation.

Question: It sounds as though it is a more complicated process. But surely inheritance procedures are more or less the same in every country?

María: In some respects they are, but there are also a number of differences, depending upon which country you come from. It is beneficial to deal with a Spanish lawyer who knows exactly what the system is here and can make sure not only that you comply with it but that you are aware of any inheritance tax issues there might be.

Question: So, might you have to declare inheritance tax in Spain?

María: Yes. If you have property here then when you bequeath it your inheritors will have to declare inheritance tax before it can be transferred into their name. It often comes as a surprise and a very unwelcome one at a time when you are grieving too.

Question: Do you find that inheritors are often surprised by inheritance tax?

María: Yes, they are. It's a shame that these conversations don't happen earlier. Partly as well because there are ways that the amount of inheritance tax can be reduced. For example by splitting the inheritance between more inheritors, who benefit from reductions. With a little forward planning and by discussing your preferences with a solicitor you can save your inheritors money.

Question: Why don't you think more people make a Spanish will then?

María: I think it's just down to lack of information and not wanting to think about the inevitable. I'm sure if people could see some of the difficulties they leave behind them, it would be the last thing they would want for their family.

Question: What if you're not sure whether your relative has made a will or not?

María: In this respect Spain is very well organised. There is a central register of all the last wills made in Spain at the ‘Registro General de Actos de Última Voluntad' and you can find out from there whether a will has been made or not. The will itself will be stored at the Notary office. There is a note of this kept at the registry too.

Question: What advice would you give then to someone who feels it might be in their best interests and those of their family to make a will in Spain?

María: You need to find a lawyer who you can communicate with easily. For example, we prepare a Spanish will in both Spanish and the client's own language. It's important to make sure that nothing gets lost in translation. I'd also advise you to make sure you let your inheritors know your plans and if there are any implications for them.

With just a little forwarding thinking now, you can save your loved ones a great deal of extra work and uncertainty at a time when they need it least.

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